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My Own Worst Enemy: Breakdown (series premiere)

by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 14th 2008 9:05AM
Christian Slater(S01E01) Watching My Own Worst Enemy is like deja vu. You feel like you've seen something like this before. Was it The Bourne Identity, Casino Royale, Minority Report, Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Or maybe it was something on TV, like that failed Ray Liotta series Smith or Jennifer Garner's Alias or The Bionic Woman or The Six Million Dollar Man or something else...

See, that's the problem with My Own Worst Enemy. It's familiar but not in a cool way. Rather it's derivative and not very compelling. NBC is already doing a double life, super secret spy thing much better in the ratings-challenged Chuck.

The obvious appeal of My Own Worst Enemy is two-fold: lots of action including cool gadgets, cars (thank you, GM), guns, blood and the mystery, combined with the charm and complexity of Christian Slater. Slater's a fun actor, a sort of Jack Nicholson only younger. I remember when he first started on Ryan's Hope! He's got something.

Unfortunately, this dual personality, Jekyll and Hyde performance doesn't work. Unlike the original Jekyll and Hyde, in which the two personalities in one body were good vs. evil, Edward and Henry in Enemy are opposites more in the peripherals than in the essence.

The strangest element in the piece is Henry's visits to the psychiatrist. If Mavis, his spy personality's handler, is in charge, why would she let Henry see a shrink to work out the questions in his head? If Raymond and Mavis and Tony are so exacting, why did they leave the matches in Edward's pocket?

There are loopholes in this pilot that are hard to comprehend, starting with the concept. Why would you want to create a split personality? Why create Henry at all if Edward is the man with the talent you (the secret organization) desires? Then there's the question of security; what would be the point of creating the Henry character, have him get married and have children, only to make them completely vulnerable because of his alter ego? In the opener, Uzi shows up at Henry's door and threatens to kill every member of his family. The Henry persona doesn't help Edward, so why was he created.

Other points of interest

-- The oddball casting of Mike O'Malley sort of works, although I keep expecting the guy from Yes, Dear, Anthony Clark, to turn up as his sidekick. On the other hard, Alfre Woodard as Mavis brings authority to her role which is definitely a Judi Dench variation from the Bond series.

-- Henry's discovering Edward's past reminded me of Jared's search for his parents on The Pretender. That was a much better show. (BTW, what's Michael T. Weiss up to these days?)

-- Major 'ick' factor when Edward came home to Henry's wife and ravaged her sexually. The morning after, she was deeply satisfied and Henry was completely ticked off at himself.

-- When they take Henry to the white room to erase his memories, the look was so like Willie Wonka, the original with Gene Wilder, not the Johnny Depp version!

-- Interesting twist in the plot comes with this line, "Edward and I can't meet but we can communicate." Hmm...does Mavis know that?
How do you rate the pilot?
4 stars - excellent87 (23.8%)
3 stars - good156 (42.7%)
2 stars - so-so84 (23.0%)
1 star - not to good38 (10.4%)

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I love the show and will continue to watch!

October 16 2008 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a feeling that a twist will be revealed if the series has time to pull it off that Henry is actually the real person and somehow this agency is turning normal people into super agents. Why? It makes more sense than the other way around, I think.

I believe that they therapist is employed by the agency to keep an eye on him.

October 15 2008 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think as always Christian Slater pulled it off again .He was sensitive but bold,he was cautionous but daring,he was ordinary but sexy.So basically he has the whole package.Its a show couples can watch together and totally be satisfied.Compared to some of the shows on television this is different and holds your attention until the end.

October 14 2008 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really thought that I would hate this show, and I did not. sure it wasn't unpredictable, but I found it very enjoyable. I mean it sure wasn't Kuffs but I will be tuning in again in the future.

And Eric F. you don't have to be a misogynist. Sure the reviewer may be female but the points she made were made by males on different sites.

October 14 2008 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to james's comment
eric f

Misogynist? Where the hell do you get that from my comments? Get over yourself. Recognizing that the review was a female's point of view doesn't mean that I hate women. That's absurd.

October 15 2008 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I liked it, though the plot is pretty silly (how did Edward know the bad guys were coming by Henry's house during the soccer game again?). I do concur with Rhomboid that that seems like a plausible reason to create Henry, though. I do wonder if Edward wanted to have a "normal life" on some level, though it doesn't seem likely from what we have seen of him, and that's why he okayed Henry.

I like that Henry is the creation rather than Edward.

October 14 2008 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved the show, can't wait for next week

October 14 2008 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AJ MacReady

I had a great time with the show. Slater was very good as Edward/Henry, and the concept was interesting and well-done. Of course there are going to be loopholes; that's what happens when the IDEA of the story drives it forward as opposed to the details. Obviously this is not something we're supposed to think too deeply about. Like, why would they even create another personality? Um, because it's a cool idea for a show? That's really as far as it goes, or needs to be thought through. Sit back, have a good time and enjoy. It ain't literature, nor is it intended to be. Neither is 24 and that's (mostly) a hell of a ride.

October 14 2008 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

From actual viewers I've read a variety of responses to the premier of My Own Worst Enemy, but from entertainment critics it sounds as though everyone is reading from an industry pre-arranged sound bite.

As an actual viewer, I thought MOWE was good, moved along well, and was fairly easy to follow, though it did throw in a few "huh?" moments. The concept is creative for Primetime and a welcome addition to the largely procedural lineup offered by most networks. (And because it is creative, do we really need critics tearing it apart, then later bemoaning the fact that there isn't much creative in primetime?) Christian Slater did a good job switching between Edward and Henry without being clumsy or obvious. I could follow who was who easily and thought there were enough differences between the pair to make the switch fairly easy to spot.

Do I have questions? Of course. That's what a premier does: introduced characters and creates questions the series will answer as it moves along. If every questions was answered in the premier, this would be a made-for-TV movie and not a series. Operative word: SERIES, with further episodes to answer some questions and pose more.

While most new shows have similarities to others - must we always have the endless this-is-like-that-and-that for EVERY new show? - likening Enemy to Pretender is a stretch. Jarad was an involuntarily experiment and escaped to live his own life while trying to find out about his family, his past, what was done to him and why. Edward volunteered for this program and the creation of Henry, and neither character appears to be seeking to escape from this life. Edward is a spy and apparently much more. And Henry isn't running away in search of who did this to him and for his family, unlike the entire premise of The Pretender. I think if people try really hard, they could probably liken Enemy to Prison Break and Heroes as well. How about giving it a try?

October 14 2008 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eric f

Allison, I have to say that it was unusually apparent a female wrote this review. so many comments had me scratching my head, feeling that whoever wrote this was certainly not the target audience.

"The strangest element in the piece is Henry's visits to the psychiatrist". I thought it was obvious that the psychiatrist works for the company, and is there to monitor the "personalities"

" Major 'ick' factor when Edward came home to Henry's wife and ravaged her sexually." Your comment had me rolling my eyes. It is HIS wife, it's not some dude from an alternate universe or a shape shifter raping her. I was amused by it. If you can get over being uptight about the fact that Edward doesn't have the emotional connection to the wife, it's funny that he argues with himself, "don't drive my car, I don't sleep with your wife."

None of the TV shows you mentioned dealt with split personalities. I don't think it's derivative, otherwise any show with a spy would be.

I had few expectations going into this show, but I came away from it fully impressed and looking forward to next week's EP. Great production value, and overall good story.

October 14 2008 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to eric f's comment
Sam the Deaf

I like it and I want to slap her wife.

October 14 2008 at 11:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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